Dasra releases India Philanthropy Trends for 2021

Dasra releases India Philanthropy Trends for 2021
Dasra releases India Philanthropy Trends for 2021

Dasra, a strategic philanthropy foundation, today released the top ten philanthropy trends for 2021.

The key India Philanthropy trends are as follows:

  1. Family giving deepens in awareness and understanding

With little or no rigid mandates to constrain their giving decisions, families in India have shown a great deal of flexibility and nimbleness in their giving over the last year, acting quickly to deploy both short term relief funding as well as longer term grants to non-profits in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the last year, families have taken a step back and invested greater time in reflecting on their approach to giving – both among themselves and with philanthropy advisors – and in better understanding the institutional and sustainability needs of their non-profit partners, through more frequent conversations with organization leadership. Next generation givers are also leaning in to philanthropy now more than ever, even if their interest areas are largely varied compared to that of their families. Overall, family giving is expected to witness an increase in 2021.

  1. Restrained global giving due to regulations & local movements

2020 saw a tremendous outpouring of support for Indian non-profits by diaspora givers in the US, the UK and around the world. Interestingly, the pandemic led to diaspora givers expanding their awareness of and giving beyond the top 5-10 large organizations that typically receive disproportionate attention from this group, to now also supporting newer, previously less well-known non-profits in India. As a result of the FCRA amendments however, several international foundations have been rethinking the nature and extent of their activity in India, and it remains to be seen whether or not and how many of these international foundations are here to stay over the long-run. These restrictions and the growing momentum around movements such as Black Lives Matter, have also recently led to a greater diversion of funds among individual diaspora givers to local issues in their home countries.

3. Democratization of giving through rise in retail and the Social Stock Exchange

According to a recent survey by GiveIndia, India’s appetite for giving has radically increased during the pandemic – 85% of respondents plan to increase their giving, with 74% more inclined to contribute to local communities. As normalcy resumes, priorities of retail givers might shift, but at least a fourth of fresh givers are expected to remain active during this year. With the advent of new platforms such as the Social Stock Exchange (SSE) in the coming year, this thrust towards expanding the base of givers is expected to grow even further.

4. Underserved sectors spotlighted: Migrants, public health, urban governance, mental well-being

Indian philanthropy’s focus on India’s migrant workers has been front and centre over the last year. While the response so far has been largely around emergency relief, philanthropy is increasingly beginning to focus on interventions addressing livelihoods, and organizations looking to build long-term strategies that empower vulnerable groups such as youth and women to upskill themselves and accrue sustainable incomes. With a growing recognition that the pandemic resulted in increased anxiety, grief and home-based violence in India, there is an emerging interest to support or include interventions that address mental health and well-being across several cause areas such as education, health and child protection.

5. Place-based philanthropy gains significance

While the idea of “giving in your own backyard” is not new, the COVID-19 pandemic last year has led to family philanthropists adopting a greater focus on proximate giving than ever before. Directly witnessing the impact of the pandemic on local communities has spurred an increased sense of responsibility towards their own cities and communities, pushing them to give where they live. What is interesting however, is that this focus on local giving is not only limited to individual decisions, but is also translating into increased collective philanthropic action, with cities as the units of focus. Among corporates in India, while proximate giving has always been an important emphasis, the pandemic has heightened its significance and further pushed CSR funding towards areas in and around company offices or factories – a trend that is expected continue on this year.

6. Philanthropy puts on a gender and equity Lens

The growing emphasis on creating enabling environments that promote fairness (Justice), ensuring that everyone has access to opportunities (Equity), embracing differences among us (Diversity) and welcoming various perspectives and voices (Inclusion), is not only limited to funding decisions with grantee partners, but is also emerging into an increased incorporation of the J.E.D.I. lens within the culture and principles of grant making institutions. An important part of this push towards equity and inclusion has been the growing recognition among the global philanthropy community that the gendered influences of the current pandemic requires an urgent and nuanced response from funders. As a result, several institutional foundations, have begun building in a strong gender lens to their grant making strategies, adopting more gender intentional practices within their own organizations, supporting more programs to amplify the voices of women and girls, and in some cases even building collaborative funds focused on gender.

7. Rise in regulations and decline in CSR  put non-profits in distress

Over the last year, CSR capital has drastically diminished, international funding has become increasingly restricted due to FCRA regulations, institutional funders are largely deepening their support to existing grantees in the short-medium term rather than finding and funding newer grantee partners, and an increasing number of family givers are looking to own and operate their own programs. Non-profits have therefore found themselves in a difficult scenario concerning financial and institutional health, compelling them to rethink their strategies for future sustainability and resilience. Larger and more well-established non-profits are expected to receive much of the available philanthropic funding. For mid-size and smaller organizations, recovery will be much slower, if at all.

8. Focus on technology & data empowerment to boost efficiency & transparency

Realising the critical need for digital technology adoption in the post COVID-19 world, philanthropists are increasingly interested in supporting technology-based interventions, for last mile program delivery as well as institutional capability building of non-profits. A survey conducted by Centre for Social Impact and Philanthropy revealed that most organisations were completely unprepared during the lockdown to enable continuity for their employees and communities through digital adoption. There is also a growing recognition of the limitations of technology in the more remote parts of the country, and digitising service delivery inevitably prevents access to marginalised communities. While this conundrum is being acknowledged, there will continue to be increasing funder focus on supporting digital technology to enable remote service delivery among non-profits, and the recognition of the need to do this in an inclusive manner is stronger than ever before.

9. Surge in 9 collaborative action

While the rise of collaboratives in India was an emerging trend even before last year, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it an increased sense of urgency and action. Last year saw a significant thrust of several collaboratives quickly moving past design phase – more than 50% of the collaboratives seeded, moved into the implementation stage, with momentum from both Indian and international funders unlike ever seen before. Recognizing the criticality of the government in driving change at the pace and scale that India requires more urgently than ever before, collaboratives are engaging with government more meaningfully – at the local, state and national levels.

10. Increasing investment in innovation and 10 philanthropy scaffolding

The massive challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic have brought with it a growing recognition among the giving community of the urgent need to simultaneously support and push forward multiple layers of India’s philanthropy infrastructure and machinery – whether nascent start-ups and innovative solutions or more mature pillars of the philanthropy ecosystem such as data, knowledge platforms or capacity building. Specifically, the philanthropy sector in India is seeing a rising number of innovation awards, grants, incubation platforms and other opportunities seeking to support disruptive solutions to development problems, with increasing willingness to support start-ups rather than only larger and well-established NGOs. With the sense of urgency only intensifying from here, it is likely that such interest in supporting innovations will continue well into the year.

These 10 philanthropy trends of 2021 highlight the core responsibility of philanthropy towards serving India’s most vulnerable communities, how the external socio-political environment is impacting fund flows, what it means to make philanthropy more participative and broad-based, and how funders, government and non-profits are collaborating. While the shifts last year paint a stark picture of heightened awareness and empathy among the philanthropy community, 2021 will be a telling year in terms of its translation into greater and strategic action.


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